Dian's Activity
Updates
Making Blankets
for Soldiers
My Adopted
Soldiers
Cup o' Joe
to a Soldier
K9 MWD (Military Working Dog) Care

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Dian Chapman
is a Technical Consultant (see Dian's Technical Vitaé) & Microsoft MVP since 1995 (see Dian's Microsoft MVP Profile) who joined the Patriot Guard Riders in early 2007. In May, 2008, she became a member of Soldiers' Angels, first serving on their sewing and crochet teams...making blankets for deployed soldiers and wounded vets. In 2011, she also became a Warriors Watch Rider .

Dian soon became an Approved Angel allowed to take deployed soldiers under her wings...regularly writing to them, as well as sending them care packages through the Soldiers Angels Adoption Team (see My Adopted Soldiers page). She now holds a life-time membership status as a Soldier's Angel.

Additionally, Dian was a strong supporter of the campaign to build the Military Working Dog (MWD) Teams National Monument (which was finished and dedicated in November, 2013).

Dian & Greg Chapman (avid big dog lovers with four pooches of their own) were previously involved with Military Mascots and Dian hoped to again adopt a deployed K9 Unit. In 2009 she became more involved with US War Dogs Org and has since met many wonderful K9 teams, several who she now supports as unofficial adoptees. If you're a dog lover, you'll also enjoy reading a story Dian wrote about Greg's adventure getting a soldier's mascot dog home from Iraq: Honey, I'm Home! Greg was also one of the many volunteer pilots who headed south to assist with Katrina relief. See his photo-story of his Katrina adventure here: Katrina Relief.

In 2009, Dian was honored with this Soldiers' Angel award (pictured at the left) by Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels and grand niece of General George S. Patton! It is engraved: 'Dian Chapman. For Going Above and Beyond The Call of Angels In supporting Our Military Personnel. 2009.'

Writing letters to her adopted soldiers was so rewarding that, at the end of 2009, Dian joined the Soldiers' Angels' Letter Writing Team, and was writing to several soldiers a week...more when those to whom she writes write back. In May, 2010, she was also approved to be on the Soldiers' Angels ePal team...sending emails to soldiers who have requested this type of contact. And in July, 2010, she became a member of Operation Top Knot, making baby blankets for expectant military wives.

Dian also discovered another great way to show affection for what our military does for us...by sending them a cup of coffee through the Green Bean Cup of Joe program. It's a quick, easy and secure way to pay for a soldier's coffee while s/he's in a war zone! See the Cup of Joe link for details and a fun soldier music video.

Please DO visit the Soldiers' Angels main web site and GET INVOLVED! Forwarding patriotic and prayer emails is nice, but really show them you support them by actually DOING SOMETHING tangible! It can take very little effort and/or money on your part, but the heartfelt rewards you'll get from our soldiers are more than you can imagine!

Dian Chapman's Facebook profile

Feel free to email Dian directly...she'll be happy to tell you about more ways you can get involved with helping our brave men, woman AND canine soldiers and vets! Contact dian@mousetrax.com

"Feel free to link up with me via Facebook. I often post more soldier, vet & K9 details through my profile. Just click the Facebook logo/image to the right to request a connection with me. And if you're a deployed soldier who found their way here to my site...PLEASE DO get in touch with me! Link up via Facebook or drop me an email. I'd LOVE to hear from you."

Dian D. Chapman

MAY NO SOLDIER GO UNLOVED!

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Dian's Activity Updates...some things I do

2011

October 2011 will always live in my memory...because it's when mom passed away! I'd been her caretaker for the last 15 years, up until her last year when my sister finally stepped up to help and took mom to live with her daughter where they had more room to get mom around in her wheelchair. Mom was 91.5 yrs.

Love you and miss you, mom! This photo of me with mom was from her 90th birthday.

A plea went out via Soldiers' Angels asking for cards/letters of support for a little girl who was about to celebrate her birthday, but was having a hard time due to just learning that her daddy (Sgt. 1st Class Brad Geist) had just been killed. So it was time to write to do my part and pass along my words in a sympathy card to her, which I hoped would help.

A plea went out via Soldiers' Angels saying that soldiers were asking for baby wipes, as those are like gold when you're in the desert. They help soldiers clean up and feel refreshed after spending time in the blowing sand. So I ran out to WalMart, loaded up on wipes and sent off a shipment.

Andrew Wade was a neighbor of ours who was killed in Afghanistan in March, 2011. His dad organized a motorcycle/classic car run in September to honor Andrew with proceeds going to a local food bank. Greg and I participated in this event. You can view our photostory of the ride here: Andrew Wade Memorial Ride

Andrew was an Army sniper, so this (photo to the right) was the shirt each memorial participant received upon registration. Very fitting.

(Very sadly, Andrew's dad, Doug Wade, passed away about a year after Andrew's death.)

I've been getting more and more involved with our K9 teams...or rather our MWD (Military Working Dogs) as this is now the more overall and common term for the many hero soldier/K9s working to protect us around the world.

Ya GOTTA love a guy in uniform!<smile>

But, very sadly, we're now realizing that some of these brave War Dogs also suffer from PTSD and some have to be put down due to their inability to get passed their experiences in a war zone. James (below) was heartbroken when he realized he had to let his partner, MWD Torca, go over that Rainbow Bridge.

Soldiers' Angels Attend Barrington Military Tribute Night

About a week after badly cutting my finger, I was scheduled to organize/run a booth for Soldiers' Angels at a local Military appreciation event. I managed, but not without the help of a few wonderful Soldiers' Angels who volunteered to help out. Big thanks to fellow Angels Lauren Pomeranta, Allison Morris, Rhonda Swtelle, Cathy Mulrgan and Jessica Maples. I could NOT have done all that we did without your generous assistance!

On Wednesday, August 24th, 2011, the city of Barrington, or more specifically the Park District of that city, held a Military event in the evening. It was a nice night with a few booths, food and great music, as well as a few speakers and a chance to meet some of our soldiers and veterans and say Thank You to them all for their service to our country.

Soldiers' Angels had a booth at this event. We displayed information to inform people about the organization and also had numerous, beautiful cards, made by Angels, that visitors to the booth could sign so we could send these cards to our deployed wo/men to help lift their spirits.

I'd hoped to make two Banners of Hope that could be signed by visitors so we could send these wishes of recovery and appreciation to wounded soldiers. But due to me having only one good hand and now one slightly recovered hand, I only managed to create one of these quilted 'greeting cards.' But it still worked out great! People came by to sign lots of cards and many also added their personal sentiments to the quilt and received a Soldiers' Angels bracelet for their efforts. This banner will now be sent to the US Hospital in Germany where nurses there will receive it and hang it in the recovery room of a soldier they feel most needs encouragement to get well.

To read more and see lots more photos and media coverage of this event, see this page: Soldiers' Angels Display a Booth at the Barrington Military Tribute Event, Wed, August 24, 2011

July 4th meant that before we enjoyed our holiday freedom...we go pay our respects to the wo/men who gave us this ability. So Greg and I mounted our 750cc horses and rode out to the Russell Military Museum, paid our entry fee to further enrich the museum, a good thing to do, and went on a tour of the place, as we contemplated the wo/men who had previously used all this equipment. We read stories of their bravery and Greg explained to me what all this metal was used for.

In the evening, we enjoyed that freedom by taking a little cruise. The day ended with this magnificent sunset.

June 10th, 2011...my brother died!
My brother, Jim, had been battling a few types of cancer brought on by complications from a hereditary blood disease, one that also killed my dad. Dad died when he was 57 of a blood clot after spending six complicated weeks in the hospital. Jim was given more time thanks to better meds these days, but it was still a long, hard struggle. One he knew he wouldn't win for long. He was 63 when he finally passed away, peacefully in the ER, with his immediate family on June 10th. I wrote a fun article about some of the childhood and later adult antics that dogged us throughout our life together. You can read this fun and touching story here: Gotcha Last

I got to 'virtually' meet the mom of a K9 team...Ryan and Sony. Ryan is a Navy man and also part of a K9 team with his MWD (Military Working Dog), Sony. His mom keeps us up on their adventures as best as she can under security issues. Not only are they quite a handsome team, but this month Sony captured one of the enemy who was captured with several pounds of high-explosives that he planned to use against our soldiers! Yeah Sony! You saved an untold number of brave soldiers!

Read more about Ryan and Sony at their link here: http://www.mousetrax.com/angels/MySoldiers.html#sony

May turned out to be a very busy month! But it started out with some of the best news...Osama bin Laden was dead! A secret US mission of elite US Navy Seals, along with a K9 team, discovered his whereabouts, went it and took the bastard out!

The emotional roller coaster continued throughout the month as the Patriot Guard Riders, me being one of them since 2007, brought home Cpl John Peck, who has now been promoted to Sgt John Peck. Not only is John an amazingly brave Marine, but he's a neighbor of mine...a local boy from our Village.

Coming from a Military family, John enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Iraq, where he suffered a severe head wound from an IED that exploded near him. After a long, but successful, recovery, John wanted to go back to the Middle East to be with his unit to continue the fight! He was sent to Afghanistan.

Sadly, John took yet another, terrible hit when another IED exploded and this time it took with it both his legs and part of one arm! Imploring his buddies to 'get me outta here' because 'I don't want to die in this country' they rushed him to a hospital unit. As his second recovery moved along, he had many surgeries, but infections soon also claimed more of his already wounded arm and some portions of his other arm. He was now a quadruple amputee. But no one could take away his spirit, as I discovered when I had the honor of meeting and chatting with him.

On May 9th, we had a formal homecoming parade in our Village for John that ended at the local VFW where he and his mother had arranged a special blood drive, with LifeSource, in his honor to help replenish the blood he's used over the years for his many surgeries. He didn't want his fellow soldiers to suffer from a lack of blood stock because he'd needed so much.

With engines revved and horns blazing...the Patriot Guard Riders brought John home. (Yes, that's me on the second bike. Finally, a newspaper photo without a huge flag in my face! HA!)

John and I had a fun chat and I gave him one of my American Flag Lapghans that I make for wounded soldiers who need to move around in wheelchairs. I mostly give them to the VA Hospitals, but save some to keep handy for special situations. I gave one to the Medal of Honor recipient, Sal Guinta, when I met him, too. John was very sweet and greatly appreciated my gift to him. You can read more about John, his homecoming, my chats with him and the full events of this day...now HIS DAY...as declared by the City of Antioch, as well as the State of Illinois!...at his dedicated link: Sgt John Peck

John and I joking around as his father looks on. (John and his dad both wear wireless headsets so John can easily and discretely communicate with his dad should he need assistance at any time.)

And in keeping with ridiculous pictures of me<lol>, this is one of the photos that landed in the Lake County newspaper. There were some others of John and I together, but this one cracked me up. Looks like I just lost my horse! ;-)

One more good thing came out of the death of bin Laden...a much greater awareness and popularity of MWDs...Military Working Dogs. Until now, unbelievably, not all that many people understood the fact that there are tons of highly trained, elite dogs in the military, protecting our soldiers from harm every day...at the risk of their own lives. But once the world discovered that one of these elite K9 soldiers was part of the bin Laden 'take-out' mission, everyone was now interested in learning more. So all the news outlets were running stories on these four-legged heroes.

Being a life-long dog lover, I'd been aware of them for many years, as I describe in a story I wrote years ago: Honey, I'm Home!

Now being a member of US War Dogs Org, as well as a supporter of the National MWD Memorial, soon to be built, I was thrilled to see these incredible 'best friends' to man now getting the much deserved credit they are so long overdue! Note that until the year 2000, these dogs were often either put down or left 'in country' (war zone) to fend for themselves...as the US Department of Defense and the US Military considered them "unnecessary equipment." So little was done for their care once they were no longer needed in a war zone! How despicable! But, thankfully, now they are getting much better treatment and even safe retirements. To learn more and to understand ways you can help these faithful and brave K9s get their proper due, see my K9 Care page, here: Operation K9 Care

The father of a soldier who was KIA (killed in action) in Iraq started a traveling memorial wall to help us better recognize all those who have died for us in these two latest wars...Iraq and Afghanistan. His son's photo is on the wall, as is way too many others. He, and other volunteers, take the wall around to various locations, with the help of the Patriot Guard who always escort the wall from location to location.

I wasn't able to make the escort trip, but I did head over to the standing location to help show respect and support for the wall, as requested by our PGR membership. It was a long ride down to Villa Park, but it was very good getting to not only see other PGR members I haven't seen anywhere other than a solemn funeral service, but also having a chance to chat with the father who started this memorial.

 

You can learn more about this memorial and its creation, as well as display locations and dates, at this link: http://www.ilpgmemorialwall.com/

On May 26, I rode off on my motorcycle to battle the cold, rotten weather and 35mph chilled winds to meet up with other Patriot Guard Riders who were gathering a few miles away at the Tollway to meet up with the family of a US Marine who asked us to help bring him home...another of my neighbors! They were a little late arriving at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, WI, so we waited as the winds whipped us around and we chatted as our teeth chattered. But soon LCpl Jamie Albiter, USMC, of Antioch, IL drove up with his mother and grandmother.

Although Jamie was humbly smiling, I think he may have been a bit overwhelmed. It seems his mom and grandmother had kept this all a secret. Jamie was surprised to see a bunch of bikers surround their car as they pulled into the Tollway gas station. But he was quite appreciative and gracious (aren't all Marines?<smile>) We had a LEO escort (Law Enforcement Officer) the few miles back into town where we hit the horns and revved the engines as we slowly paraded through the village to let everyone know that another of our local heroes has come, safely, home from the war.

His grandmother kept telling me how much the family appreciated us being there to help show their pride in Jamie and give him the Welcome he deserved. We lead them to Jamie's local church where the family insisted all PGRs come in to join them for some hot coffee and treats in the church social room as they wallowed in Jamie's company once again. I happily took up their offer for some hot coffee and then welcomed Jamie once more...then headed home.

Chicago Memorial Day Parade, State Street, May 28th, 2011

The Patriot Guard were invited to ride in Chicago's Memorial Day parade. Since there is a limited number allowed and it is first-come, I was thrilled to get a lot last year...my first year in the parade. But as things turned out, our participation was cancelled prior to the parade for some goofy reason. I was bummed! When the offer was emailed out to us again this year, I again jumped on the chance to participate and again got myself a slot. But as it turned out, that wasn't the best omen this year either since it pretty much stormed most of the day. So my ride back home, which should have taken me about 1-1.5 hrs from downtown Chicago back up to the Wisconsin border turned out to be a fairly miserable 3+ hour ordeal. Not only couldn't I take the highway due to the storms and not feeling safe on them, but I was pretty much drown by down pours no less than four times along the way. Just as the sun and wind dried me off as I rode through the city and suburbs of Chicagoland...another storm would roll in to dump a few more buckets of water on my head.

Another frustrating part was that we were required to arrive for check-in at 9:30am. That meant I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get dressed and ride the couple hours into the city to arrive in time. I did. But as it turned out, we were # 132 or something, so we had a L-O-N-G wait to participate! The parade wasn't even scheduled to start until noon, but the new Mayor Emanuel was a bit late due to spending some extra time with Gold Family members at a special fallen soldier memorial ceremony prior to the parade. No problem there...they deserve all the recognition they can get. But that delayed the start. Then we had to wait our turn.

By the time we got rolling, it was pushing 2pm...and also pushing were the storm clouds that managed to just roll in as the Patriot Guard were rolling out. <sigh> So after our roll down State Street (which was way cool as everyone...who was left at that point...gave us a very nice bit of attention and appreciation) we each headed home in our own directions...in the pouring rain. Not wanting to go on the highway, I had to zigzag my way through town without a GPS...my old one being waterlogged from prior catches in storms.

It was quite the adventure and I was a wet, dry, wet, dry, wet, dry...mess by the time I made it home in the dark, but I'm glad I did it. And one fun fact was that the group behind us in the parade just happened to be my own High School ROTC group. So it was fun to see them in the parade, too.

I had to get out and get items for a care package for my K9 team. Greg and I hit the stores and gathered up goodies for both members of the team...Matt the human and Bosco the K9 and sent off a big box of goodies for them both.

My daughter happens to have a personal friend, Kevin, who is a US Marine stationed in Kuwait...as a guard at the US Embassy there. I got to know him via my daughter's Facebook posts and her comments now and then about his adventures. So I, too, linked up with him and eventually made and sent him one of my American Flag Lapghans to thank him for his service. Sent that out, too, this month.

During March, I guess I mostly whined about the weather. But each time I did...I stopped and thought about what our soldiers are enduring and attempted to stop my whining...as hard as that might be! I worked on my American Flag Lapghans...which are all in various stages of completion because making those stars are a PITA and sewing them on can be even more annoying. It those times I wish were were still only 13 colonies!<g>

On St. Paddy's day, we went to support our local VFW by purchasing tickets for their Corn Beef & Cabbage dinner/dance. It was a great night. We got to see their military museum...

...and also enjoyed the company of our new neighbors and friends.

I attended two veteran funerals in Union Grove, WI. Geez...those were C-O-L-D rides! But these two soldiers didn't have any family to be there for them, so I felt I had to make sure I was a part of their honors!

Sadly, we also had to bring home a neighbor of ours...who was KIA in Afghanistan. I need to put details on my PGR page. It's hard enough when you attend a KIA arrival...worse when it is someone from your small town! UPDATE! You can now find a link to Andrew Wade's memorial page amongst my Patriot Guard mission listings.

In January I didn't completely abandon my Angel activities just because I'm hiding away in the warmth of the house. Besides letter writing, to which I'll soon be writing my 200th soldier, I also have been making scarves for homeless vets to help keep them warm. Over a couple weeks this month, I used up some of my excess yarn to make several scarves for vets that I sent to Barb/volunteer services at Hines VA hospital in Chicagoland.

Also, one of the soldiers to whom I wrote as a member of the Soldiers' Angels letter writing team, Kevin, wrote me back a thank you and eventually we linked up on Facebook as friends. I tracked his deployment time and we chatted via more letters and Internet posts. When he finally and happily returned home to his family, I remembered that I'd said I'd try to send him one of my HERO blankets, but I'd never gotten around to doing it while he was deployed (feeling terrible about that!). So once I realized this error, I got busy making his blanket and, due to my delay, decided to send him a special one...using one of my Army panels.

These specially designed, fleece panels can be purchased through many online sites, including joann.com, where I get most of mine. I added a cotton American Patriot Button pattern designed for the backing and added my custom THANK YOU...FOR YOUR COURAGE! lettering along the top. Kevin emailed me when he received the blanket and was THRILLED to have it. He plans to hang the Army side up on the wall in his home. You can read more about Kevin, and all my adopted soldiers, on My Soldier page.

 

I've felt bad that I've been unable to attend Patriot Guard Rider missions of late due to major changes in my life.

For the last 15 yrs, I've been caring for my elderly mom in our family homestead (where dad died in the mid 70s and where she wanted to stay). But in 2006, she had a stroke that caused aphasia (inability to properly recognize language and memory loss). Previously, we pretty much just kept her company, now I was her constant caretaker and needed to stick close to home as she would get scared if left alone. But at the end of July, other family members finally stepped up to lend a hand by moving mom (who will be 91 in March) from her home to theirs, where she now resides. She's in a better place, since her own home was not built to handle wheelchairs and other family members hated coming into the city to visit her, so visits were rare. This also freed Greg and I up to move on with our own lives, so we moved away to a heavenly new home. I love mom and miss our family home, but it was time to do a little living of our own.

It was a big move that took several weeks to clear out of the old house...with 54 years of family memories, as well as 54 years of personal junk left by every family member who had previously lived there and moved out! So there was a lot of sorting and organizing, then packing and moving, then unpacking and organizing in our new home. Whew! It's taken a few months to get through it all, but Greg and I...and the dogs and cat...finally feel organized, settled and love our new life.

I was recently able to get back to writing soldiers and have now been working on blankets for soldiers again...in my own, new sewing room, which is wonderful. But today was an honor I'm still in awe about...I got to meet SSgt. Salvatore Giunta, US Army, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient...the first living recipient in 40 years, since Vietnam. I brought one of my American Flag lapghans, attached my Angel card to it and was able to get up to meet him in person to give him the lapghan. He's so sweet and humble. And as I told Greg...what's so amazing is that for the moment you have his attention, you do have his attention...he's so sincere to everyone he meets. It's an amazing feeling. He's a wonderful ambassador now for the Army and Military at large.

I have more pictures and info, which I'll be posting HERE soon.

Okay, this is definitely kismet...I love to crochet at night as a way to unwind. But I'd just finished a project and although I'm planning another, I didn't get the yarn yet. So here I was tonight going a little nuts wishing I had a project to work on versus just sitting here watching TV trying to relax before bed. I have a cabinet full of excess yarns, but didn't know what to make or for whom. As I was looking through my yarns, I realized how much baby yarn I have and wished I could use it up. I decide to check my email and there's the weekly newsletter email from Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels. In it they are asking for people to help out by joining the Soldiers' Angels Operation Top Knot. HA...and what is that team all about you ask? They make (crochet, knit, sew, quilt, buy) gifts for expectant military wives. BINGO!

So I just joined that team, pulled out some soft baby yarn and tonight I'm working on whipping out a fun baby afghan to soon sent off as a gift to some military mommy-to-be.

Some folks on Facebook were asking me about some of my letter writing techniques, so I posted an update to my letter writing section of this site and included techniques, tips about writing and downloads to the templates I use for cards, letters and labels, which you can read about and download for your own use...by clicking HERE.

I attended a sad escort bringing home the body of Airborne PFC Gunnar Hotchkin to his family. I'll soon be posting photos from that mission in the above PGR section. I only noticed the email of that ride that morning, but was able to rush to make it. I'm glad I did have the chance to pay my respect to this son, husband, father, brother and soldier who gave his life for us.

Having now written over 125 soldiers through the letter writing team, I've made some new friends. I had fun sending Freeze Pops to one unit who sent me a great photo of the unit eating their freeze pops in the desert.

Click HERE to read more about Rob and this Air Force MP unit.

Off to the Post Office to send some care packages to my two remaining adopted soldiers. Yes, I did adopt a third now, but being a newly adopted soldier under my wings, his care package was an initial Deployment Pkg I purchased/sent directly from the Soldiers' Angels' store. It includes welcoming info, as well as a Soldiers' Angel challenge coin and Soldiers' Angels sand scarf.

I send one of the deployment packs as an introduction package to all my newly adopted soldiers. Later I send them either pkgs from the SA store or purchase my own items and mail them myself. Here's a photo of some of what's in this set of pkgs...

On April 30th, I had the HONOR of riding with the Patriot Guard to welcome home a Chicago hero...MSgt Pedro "Pete" Medina, a Chicago Police Officer and Army MP. He was critically wounded when a building fell on him while under fire in SW Afghanistan. Paralyzed from the neck down in May 2009, he proved the doctors wrong as he slowly regained his movement. On April 30th, he walked through Midway airport under his own power to the welcoming arms of his family, friends, fellow Chicago Police Officers and fellow Army MP soldiers. See photos: Pedro

Finally received Official notice that Spc Christopher is now on his way home from the sandbox, so he is no under my wing. See My Soldiers page for the latest soldier adoption and Mission Accomplished news of "my guys"...with the addition of my new soldier, Gabriale. He's my ninth adopted soldier.

As a Soldiers' Angel since early 2008, it was time to make it official and become a Life Member of Soldiers' Angels.

Soldiers are, as the saying goes "like potato chips...can't have just one." Spc Christopher's status is still uncertain through Soldiers' Angels (I HOPE he's okay!!), so he has not yet been officially released from my list, but I've been told to stop sending things to him. So with only Sgt John as an active adoption, I felt the need to add one more soldier under my wing. My request for an additional adoption gave me Spc Kevin, in Afghanistan.

I did pack up a few extra, smaller care packages that I'll send to those soldiers who sound the most needy in remote Afghanistan bases.

Wow...suddenly many of my adopted soldiers are coming home! A few weeks ago I had four adopted soldiers...now just one. Sgt Chester is on US soil...at a base waiting to finalize his time and head home to his family. Just got the word that Captain Mike is now heading home and released from my care. And with the return of the blanket I sent to Spc Christopher, Soldiers' Angels have verified that his unit is also returning. That leaves Sgt John for now.

I'm currently debating on whether I should fully adopt more soldiers or use my efforts to help support the many soldiers requesting care packages through the Letter Writing Team? I write them letters, but feel bad that I can't afford to send them things they request, because I had so many other soldiers. So maybe I'll send a lot of smaller care packages versus adopting one? Tough decision!

I wanted to adopt a K9 team by now, but it appears Soldiers' Angels no longer runs a K9 support department!?!?! I'd love to find a team to support. I'll have to check with some of my K9 Vet friends to see if they know how I can do this?

Still making blankets for soldiers as time permits. Also heard from Sgt Chester that he'll be heading home, soon, so I adopted a new soldier. Just wrote my first letter of intro to Sgt John, so I haven't heard anything from him yet. I may not ever, but I hope so.

I also applied to the Soldiers' Angels' Letter Writing Team (LWT) in December and, after a month on probation, writing several soldiers, I was approved and moved to the official team. Each week I go to the Approved Angel site and pick up three new names of soldiers who could use a letter from home...and I write them. See my LWT page for more info and a link to join the team.

Another great way to say thanks to a soldier is to send him/her a cup of coffee...a Cup of Joe for a Joe. See my link HERE for more info and to learn how quickly you can end a $2 cup of coffee to a deployed soldier!

Now, a week later, I've just finished a mini afghan for my adopted soldier's son, who is the twin of the daughter of Capt Mike who will be receiving the pink/purple blanket shown further below. This one may not look as fancy, but the guys love the camo yarn and this little boy wants to be like daddy, so I'm sure he'll enjoy the camo blanket.

Both will be shipped to his wife this week so she can surprise the kids with it and enjoy snuggling on the couch for their weekly Friday movie night.

Just before Thanksgiving, I finished a mini afghan for one of my adopted soldier's little daughter. Capt Mike has adorable twins...a boy and a girl. So with his wife's permission, I'm making them each a blanket From Daddy's Angel to help keep them warm as they sit on the sofa with mommy and watch movies this winter.

Their little girl loves pinks and purples (could only find violet yarn). I added ruffles on three sides since mommy told me their little girl is quite the girly girl. Their son will be getting a camo afghan so he can be like daddy! Ahhh! I'll be starting that one as soon as the camo yarn arrives.

This month I shipped off a bunch of scarves to Hines VA hospital as a little something that the staff can give to soldiers who are in need of a little extra warmth this winter. Scarves are quick to make and make good use of left over yarn. If you're interested in helping, email me at dian@mousetrax.com

Scarves should be about 5 inches wide and 4 feet long.

November started out sadly when we heard of the horrific shooting at Ft. Hood. Thirteen of our soldiers were killed when a fellow soldier when on a shooting rampage! Two of those soldiers where from Illinois and one was from my neighborhood...PFC Francheska Velez. As a member of the Patriot Guard, I helped bring her home to her family. See the sad story here: PGR_ChekaVelez

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Today I located one of the few, remaining Hallmark stores in the city, on the hunt for some new stationery to write my soldiers. I had been using some pretty dolphin note cards, but ran out. I had visions of finding a nice box of stationery to help me get in the writing mood each week as I update my soldiers on events in the homeland.

Sadly, I discovered that my fond memories of aisles of wonderful stationery from which to choose...are no longer valid. I purchased a small amount of fairly plain letter notes w/envelopes to hold me over until I can find something suitable online...or I may just have to wing it and design/print my own.

As I told the helpful Hallmark woman who gave me the bad news...I feel partly responsible for this paperless/electronic world due to being involved in programming computers for the last 18+ years. So I guess this is pay back!<smile> However, this last year I've relearned the art and value of a written letter as I wrote several letters a week, one to each of my adopted soldiers. And as one of my soldiers recently wrote in a quick email from the war zone...you can clearly see that handwritten letters to a lonely soldier is a gift they really appreciate!

"Everyone has a purpose to do on this earth. I think one of your purpose on this earth is to touch people's heart in a very special way. I would never thought I would received a handwritten letter and this lengthy, esp. when everyone had already put their pencil down and turn to e-mailing. Not to mention time. So, special that you took time to write. I will try to treasure this letter to be part of my special collections and I will pass on to my next generations. Thank you for writing!"

Get involved! Adopt a soldier of your own and relocate the lost art of letter writing! Or join the Letter Writing Team of Soldiers Angels and write notes to lonely soldiers without an adoption. You can do as much or as little as you want...JUST DO IT!

In preparation for the cold Chicago winter, Dian has been making use of extra yarn bits by making quick winter scarves, which she will soon deliver to Hines Veterans' Hospital in the Chicagoland area as giveaways to vets who need a little extra warmth this winter.

Dian prepares to pack up her October care pack shipment to her three adopted soldiers. Sometimes she sends packs directly from the Soldiers' Angels site...like the birthday pack she sent to Captain Mike recently. But sometimes she purchases items herself and ships them off in US Mail Priority boxes. Once price for each (plus a discount for APO [Army Post Office] addresses)...so LOAD them up!

Six crocheted lapghans (smaller afghans to accommodate wounded vets who may be in wheel chairs) ready so far, with a few more in the works. Dian will be taking these lapghans to Hines VA Hospital in Chicagoland in November (for Veteran's Day). Big thanks to friends who helped produce these lapghans.

 

Care packages sent to three adopted soldiers, Capt Mike, Staff Sgt Eddie and Specialist John. Sgt Kelly (my first adopted soldier) and his unit returned from the Sandbox and are heading home...mission accomplished. Thanks to the new post office's Priority flat rate boxes and the $2 Military mailing discount on priority mail, I'm able to JAM these boxes with about $100 worth of items I know the guys want/need...and ship each nearly 15 lb box off for just $11.95 each.

During July, Dian managed to knock out one more full lapghan. Thanks to invisible thread, I was able to quickly sew all 50 stars on my lapghan in a couple of hours by machine using free-style darning. I'd done this before, but the white threads on the reverse blue was unsightly. So I'd been taking time sewing the stars on by hand. Thanks to invisible thread, I can use machines again. Although using invisible thread can be a challenge in itself, since it's like fishing line and tends to unwind from the spool on its own. My stand-up thread holder helped solve that problem.

If you'd like to learn how to make the stars, click HERE to jump to where you'll find a link to view an online video where I demonstrate the process.

One more to add to the pile that I'll soon bring to Hines VA Hospital.

I discover that I've received a very cool honor...the main Soldiers' Angels web site kicks off its 2009 Holiday Blankets of Belief campaign and in each of their many different brochures, fliers and web pages announcing the campaign, they are using images of MY blankets! Yup, each photo they are using (after they asked my permission to use them, which I happily granted them full rights to use) are pictures from my site of the blankets I made during the 2008 campaign! How cool!

I read in the Soldier's Angel newsletter that veterans making their way to VA hospitals could use winter scarves to keep them warm. That's easy...so I've been working on making some in the evenings when it's time to relax. Scarves are fast and easy to make and help you make good use of all those extra bits of yarn you have left over. Get busy! Vets, as well as lots of folks in shelters, could use your gifts to keep them warm this winter!

A nice thank you letter from the VA at Hines VA hospital...in appreciation for the scarves.

I learned about the Soldiers' Angel crochet team late in the year, but did manage to complete two crocheted blankets for vets in the VA hospitals. US Flags are the most requested type of crocheted lap blankets, so I figured out how to make what the vets wanted most.

I printed out a clear US Flag image from the web to use as a reference. A little math helped me figure out the width for each row (approx 3" each) and length (125 cast ons using all half-doubles) so I could meet the required dimensions. Then it was off to the races. Once I hit the blue, it was a little tricky keeping both the row color and blue yarns from getting tangled as I moved from color to color in each row, but it worked out nicely...as long as our cat wasn't around!<smile>

The stars were the hardest and most time consuming part. I tried many ideas, but finally settled on individually crocheting 50 small stars per flag, then using my sewing machine with the embroidery foot to zigzag the stars onto the blue field with free-hand sewing. They turned out okay, but I may just purchase pre-cut white stars in the future and sew them...or I may work to master crocheting them directly onto the blue?

But as you can see, the finished lap blanket turned out pretty nice. I decided to add a 3-sided, gold crochet border of triple stitch to represent the gold fringe on military flags. I finished the left edge with my signature white satin binding. At first I'd planned to also stitch my Thank You lettering onto the white satin, but then realized...Hey! You don't put writing on a US Flag! So I passed on that idea.

And since they were flags...my 10 years as a Girl Scout kicked in and I wrestled the yarn blankets into properly folded flag formats, tied them with ribbon, added the required crochet team tag and shipped them off.

And as you can see...they seemed to have passed their initial inspection...

From: VA Crochet and Craft Team [mailto:va.crochet.craftteam@gmail.com]
Sent: Monday, November 17, 2008 6:16 PM
To: dian@mousetrax.com
Subject: Re: Soldiers Angels VA Team Holiday Lap Blanket Drive

Hi Dian,

Thank you for completing your US Flag afghans. They are gorgeous!! I really liked the idea of the satin binding on the side. I have not seen that one, and it really ties it all together. We can feel for you trying to fold up the yarn blankets, rolling them nicely is a chore itself. Fleece blankets roll nicely, but not afghans. :)

Yes, you may crochet these at your leisure and donate to the VAs. Just let us know if you can when you have some completed so we can let you know if some different VAs are needing blankets etc. We greatly appreciate your help this year. Thank you for your generous gifts. May your family have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Shelley Folkerts
Deb Delcorio
Soldiers Angels
VA Crochet Craft Team Coordinators

Well, I managed to get two sewn blankets more out before the updated December deadline. I didn't make my self-imposed 20 blankets that I was hoping to make when I first joined the sewing team in May, 2008...but I did manage to make and send out a total of 12 blankets for our soldiers for this holiday. And, of course, I'll continue, as time permits, to make more for our wounded soldiers.

I'm EXTREMELY proud and humbled to tell you that Soldiers' Angels contacted me and asked permission to feature my blankets on their web site!

Subject: Blankets of Belief

Comments: Your designs are gorgeous! Would it be possible to have your permission to post some of the pictures of your blankets BOB's on our main www.soldiersangels.org site? Let me know.

Caren Vink
Soldiers' Angels
Vice President

 

Hi Dian,
Thank you for allowing Soldiers' Angels to post and share your wonderful blanket creations. I sew too..and I am mesmerized by all the colors and the way you put your blankets together. Many soldier's will be so delighted to receive one of your warm and cozy blankets.

Warmly,
Caren Vink
Soldiers' Angels
Vice President

Here's a couple screen shots from Soldiers' Angels web site showing several of my blankets (top couple rows), as well as a close up showing one of the explanations.

I recently checked out the Soldier's Angels blanket page and found a photo update of just some of the blankets they've received at the NC holding site. And check it out...I can see two of my blankets in the pile!

Look closely in the red circle and you'll see my blankets (as shown further below on this page) # 2 and # 3 in the stack! How Cool!

Need inspiration to get rolling making your own blankets for the soldiers?

Check out this BEAUTIFUL cartoon dedicated to Soldiers' Angels and their blanket campaign!

As time permitted during 2008, I've been making Blankets of Hope to send to wounded soldiers and Blankets of Belief to send to deployed soldiers who will be away from home for the 2008 holidays. More recently, I started making Blankets of Gratitude, in my case, I make crochet US Flag lap blankets, which are much requested by wounded vets in VA hospitals.

Below are just SOME of the blankets I've made for our soldiers. Further below you can find some details about how I make these simple, but pretty and much appreciated blankets.

Blanket # 8

Blanket # 7

Blanket # 6

Blanket # 5

Blanket # 4

Blanket # 3

Blanket # 2

Blanket # 1

 


Help Dian Help More Soldiers and Veterans

Because some people have asked to help pay for some of the blankets I make for soldiers as their way of helping...I've added this link. If you would like to make a donation to support my efforts to help me purchase more fabric and yarn to allow me to make more blankets for our soldiers, you can do so, securely, online through PayPal by clicking the Donation button below:

THANK YOU very much for your Support!

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